Reflections on CSD

This article highlights the Youth Caucus at CSD-16 and the issues that surround the future of food.

by Sarah Fabian, WhyHunger

Agriculture and Youth at CSD-16

The Youth Caucus at CSD-16 is comprised of lively and tenacious youth (26 years and under). Many are first-time delegates, but the perceived overwhelming ambiguity of the CSD’s multi-tiered procedures and opportunities have only inspired them to jump in with both feet. Within the Youth Caucus, there is a core interest group of agriculturalists from central and northern Europe, Southern Africa and the US. Keenly aware that they have inherited a deeply distressed and alien world they had no part in creating, they prepared a statement aimed to snap delegates into attention during the “Thematic Discussion on Agriculture.” The statement opened with a call for an “ethical revolution” to reform the agricultural system ~ ensuring that sustainability includes all people, animals and plants. Key concepts included the “academic” farmer stating the need for educational support and awareness of the ‘career’ that sustains us humans; support for small-scale farms to ensure food security; eradicating child labor, which comprises 70% of the world’s farm workers; and addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic that greatly hinders agricultural production by destroying families and chances for education. The statement grabbed the delegates’ attention with the line, “We are surprised that [these issues] have not been significantly addressed by the delegation today.”

Organic Farming in the EU

Four panelists kicked off the well-attended side event on Tuesday evening of CSD-16. The presentations ranged from nitty-gritty policy and labeling to NGOs and education. The New Council Regulations for Organic Farming in the EU will be published in the 2009 EU Gazette. The EU is also conducting research until 2025 on many issues related to organic farming. The project’s name is, Food, Fairness and Ecology, and is being carried out through the collaboration of organizations such as LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability). The project’s vision paper and research agenda are open to public review and comment until May 12th. Two other projects were highlighted, ECOLOGICA and IFOAM. The former is an e-education website described as a “central data bank on European level for the education of ecological farming advisers.” The second stands for International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, and, among other initiatives, is unifying and forming a standard for the ‘organic’ label of foods and goods.

After the panelists spoke, the Q&A session led to a “heated” debate for the CSD over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Several delegates held the mindset that a region needs organic, conventional, and biotech approaches to farming as a way to ensure enough food locally and globally. The counter-argument was made that cross-pollination with GMOs would ruin the organic market, to which the former replied that with biotechnology, cross-pollination should be controllable, and if the organic market gets hurt, the other markets could pay the damage costs. One panel member found common ground by pointing out that more research needs to be done on biotechnology, and until the research is complete, it would make sense to focus energies and resources on what has proven to work and will continue to work: organic farming. Otherwise, we’ll just create more “work.”

Although the side event ran over its time slot (it was the last in the day), the delegates were rewarded by a cornucopia of hors d’oeuvres, elegantly displaying the day’s bounty from a nearby farmers’ market. Thank you, German Embassy.